A YOUNG father has described his torment at being torn from his baby son's life after being deported from the US as an illegal immigrant.
Paul Ferguson (28) says he is now forced to watch toddler Dylan grow up "on computer" during their weekly Skype sessions.
Paul, from Buncrana, Co Donegal, was expelled from San Francisco, California, in 2011 when his only child was just six weeks old. He has only seen the youngster – now two years and four months old – three times since, and for only a week at a time.
These precious weeks were only made possible by the "kindness" of Dylan's American-born mother, who has made the three trips to Ireland – most recently last Christmas – to reunite father and son. She also keeps the 28-year-old up to date with Dylan's progress in daily texts and emails.
"We are not together anymore but I could not wish for a better mother for my son," said Paul.
"She is giving me a lifeline to Dylan and she is raising him to be independent, smart and strong."
Paul emigrated for work to Perth last October and says he pines for his son, "the light of (his) life", every day.
He says his is just one of many heartbreaking stories of emigrant families being "ripped apart" by deportation.
He has launched a Facebook campaign, 'To Reunite a Father with his Son'.
"I'm afraid I'm becoming a stranger to Dylan. When he hears my Irish accent on Skype he says, 'Hello, Daddy,' but it's very difficult.
"After the call, I am so upset it takes me half an hour to come around. I miss him every single day," he adds.
"The amount of supportive messages I have been getting from people all over the world has been unbelievable."
Paul, who now works as an air-conditioning installer in Perth, first visited California on a 90-day holiday visa in 2005. He moved there permanently a year and a half later and met Dylan's mother in 2008. His dream is to be allowed to live and work in San Francisco, to be near his adored child.
He says he has written to Irish and US politicians, including Enda Kenny, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
"In 2011, I went to the US embassy in Dublin and applied for a visa to go back to see my child. I was denied."
The US Embassy declined to comment. "We do not comment on individual cases," said a spokesman.
Meanwhile, the Co Donegal man is determined to continue his campaign.
"This is tearing me apart but I will not give up the fight. I have to hold out hope and believe there is some humanity in the world.
"If all else fails, at least my son will know how much I love him and how hard I tried to get back to him."